Hamas rejects European mediation offer

Says Palestinians must continue "resistance;" Mashaal: Barghouti must be freed for Schalit.

mashaal 24.88 (photo credit: AP)
mashaal 24.88
(photo credit: AP)
Hamas has rejected a European offer for an indirect meeting with Israelis to discuss a possible truce, exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said Friday, adding that the Palestinian people have no choice other than "resistance." Speaking at a rally in Damascus marking Hamas's 20th anniversary, Mashaal also called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to hold unconditional talks with Hamas. Mashaal went on to claim that "some Europeans have offered us to meet indirectly with Israelis to discuss a truce and we told them no and one thousands nos." He did not say which European country made the offer. On Monday, Abbas took a conciliatory tone toward his Hamas rivals in a major policy speech, calling for a "new page" in relations between the bitter enemies. Fatah and Hamas have been at odds since Hamas won parliamentary elections in January 2006. Those differences boiled over into open warfare that peaked with Hamas's driving Fatah out of Gaza in June. Mashaal said that the PA had made reconciliation talks conditional on a number of concessions from Hamas including an apology. "We are ready for a dialogue without conditions. Our hands are extended and all matters should be put on the table including elections," Mashaal said. He also made it clear that Cpl. Gilad Schalit, captured by Hamas-linked terrorists in a cross-border raid in June 2006, would not be freed without the release of Palestinians held in Israeli jails. "The prisoner issue bloodies our heart," Mashaal said, indicating that it was a painful topic, and added that "Gilad Schalit will not be released unless our prisoners are released." Army Radio reported that Mashaal named jailed Fatah Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti as one of the Palestinian leaders he was demanding that Israel release. Mashaal said that a recent US-sponsored Mideast peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland had not stopped the building of settlements in Palestinian territories nor improved the lives of Palestinians, noting that 560 Israeli checkpoints were still in place. He added that this leaves his people with no choice but to fight. "Give our people another alternative. As long as the horizons are closed and there are no other alternatives then there is nothing our people can do other than resistance," he said. He added that the Cabinet of PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad "must go and all (Palestinian) forces must prevent this government from gambling with the interests of the Palestinian people." Jpost.com staff contributed to this report.